Guest Author - Lisa Shea
There are very few birds that I dislike, and this is one of them. The brown-headed cowbird, Molothrus ater, originally hung out in the praries of the US, following around after bison and other large animals. They have since spread to much of the US.
Itīs not their bison-following habits that bother me. Itīs the way they rear their young. Or, should I say, donīt rear their young. Instead of making nests of their own, the female cowbird goes around to other birdsī nests, laying her eggs in with theirs. The cowbird chick tends to be larger than the rest of the chicks in the nest, and literally pushes them out of the nest to get all of the food for itself.
Sometimes the mom cowbird even helps, pushing out a few of the regular eggs in order to get her own egg in the nest!
In a few cases the owner of the nest realizes the new egg is an alien one, and gets rid of it, but in most she dutifully tries to feet this "unusual baby", bringing it food and taking care of it. Often this results in the cowbird chick growing large and strong, while the rest of the natural chicks miss out on food (if theyīre lucky enough to be left in the nest).
Cowbirds have brown and white specked eggs, and eat just about anything - seed, insects, berries, sunflower seed, cracked corn, breadcrumbs, etc. They are the true survivors of the birding world.
Photos by Lisa Shea